Friday, May 28, 2010

The Results Are In

I am writing this week’s blog spread out on the settee on Curlew, a spot I haven’t held in some 8 months. I’ve missed this; the boat, the water, Baltimore. As soon as I spend a few minutes on the water I feel calmer, more relaxed. Tomorrow we hope to head out - to where, we’re not sure. We’ll figure that out once we see what direction the wind is blowing (if it is blowing…), and go from there.

Okay, so the big news. I saw my doctor on Thursday. Mind you, I haven’t seen the reports myself, hence, I don’t have all the details. She told me that according to the report, all tumors are gone except one. The tumor in the lymph node is not there, nor is the one in the fourth rib. One of the tests had shown a spot on the lung, which they did not think was cancerous – this is gone. The tumor on the hip is gone, but that did not show on the last test either. There also was a spot on the femur – which they did not officially declare a tumor – that also has disappeared and again, this was not on the last set of scans. The July 2009 report stated that there were innumerable tumors in the liver. This report indicates there is one tumor that is about 2.4 centimeters. This tumor had been originally 6.7 centimeters.

A marvelous report! Everyone is really excited for me and yes, I am very happy about the news. I didn’t realize how nervous I was about all this until I was sitting in the exam room and I started to shake. After I heard the news, I immediately became stoic. You see, we still have a way to go and this cancer is so unpredictable and aggressive, that I have to remember that things can change in a second. This is when I have to remind myself to live in the moment, one day, one hour, one minute at a time, otherwise if the news comes back not so good one day, I may truly crumble. They say that today they don’t talk about curing cancer; it is all about getting it to stop growing. Many women live many years with breast cancer. You just don’t know who are going to be the lucky ones.

What does all of this mean in my treatment? Not much, at least not now. Although the doctor did not allude to a future, she made it clear I have to continue with my current treatment and reminded me of this cancer’s unpredictability. I figure we’ll see what happens with the next set of tests in three months. I can take an occasional break from treatment – but that was not defined either in terms of how often or how many I could skip. I am planning to get a second opinion to determine if I am doing the right things at this stage. I did ask the doctor if they could cut out or nuke the liver tumor.  She thought about it and said it was a possibility, but it would mean stopping the chemo. She doesn't think that is a good idea.

Although the day started out on a fantastic note, things kind of went haywire from there. About six months ago I had a reaction to one of the chemo drugs – the carboplatin. Since that time, I am given an extra shot of Benadryl and another dose of steroids prior to receiving the drug. This time the doctor increased the carboplatin dosage because my weight is up (ugh!) and because my renal function has improved (actually all my organs are functioning normally). I did not want them to do this since I felt I was responding to the current treatment and I am concerned about worsening the neuropathy. Anyway the PA (physician's assistant) came out fighting and stating how it is important to match the drug to the weight, etc. so it reaches its maximum effectiveness, blah, blah, blah, so I said fine!

Well, I don’t know if it was because of the increased dose, but after eight minutes of receiving the infusion (the total time to administer this drug is one hour), I felt my mouth, throat and sinuses begin to tingle. Then I felt my face flush. My sister Ann and her husband Juan were there with me (Juan receiving his infusion that day), and I asked them if my face was red. They looked and said yeah, a little. I called the nurse, by the time she came my face was bright red – my ears were actually scarlet! They immediately stopped the infusion and began a saline drip. After some discussion, they gave me another shot of Benadryl and another dose of steroids. After about 20 minutes things returned to normal. They began to administer the carboplatin again.

Things went along smoothly, for a while. When there was only about an inch remaining in the bag I noticed my legs started to itch, then my arms. I pulled up my shirt and noticed a rash beginning to appear – same on my legs. Before I new it my hands turned deep red. I had already called the nurse and once again, they stopped the treatment and started the saline drip. Soon the little red spots that appeared on my arms started to connect themselves, and I now looked like I was wearing a pair of scarlet elbow-length red gloves.

The PA and pharmacist had a bit of a row over what to give me next. The upshot was another shot of Benadryl. Now I have had 100mg of the stuff… Although I was wide awake, thanks to the 50mg of steroids, I found I had difficulty forming sentences – so when my sister Jean called in the middle of all this she insisted that she come and pick me up to take me home. I finally agreed. Fortunately I had a great nurse that day, Cheryl. She insisted they keep me (after the PA had said to send me home), and got me another bag of saline. The color finally disappeared. All that remains today is a little puffiness in the ankles and fingers. We left the hospital at 5:55 pm; I had arrived there that morning at 7:55.

Lauren had stayed over the night before my treatment so she could go with me to the doctor. We got up early and went to Mrs. Kay’s for breakfast. She got to experience this wonderful eat-at-the counter restaurant, with all the locals who show up there faithfully every morning. She was so thrilled with the doctors report, that as soon as we got back to my throne room she texted all her friends. What a kid!

Jean drove me home and hung out for a while. We had meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner that Ann had brought for me earlier that day. I have the most amazing family! It was a great ending to a rather emotional day.

PS: As I told a friend the other day, now is NOT the time to uncross your fingers and toes, nor is it time to stop your prayers! We’ve got another tumor to go, and there are drugs in the pipeline that we got to get to market. They may be my future – as well as the future for many others!


Barbara Gruenwald said...

Glad to hear you have many angels surrounding you. Congratulations on the results and I hear you - prayers and positive thoughts are coming your way. Curlew sounds like the perfect medicine following that treatment! Enjoy and send pictures!
Love to you, Barbara

mzanar said...

I wrote to you the other day...but I guess I didn't input it properly.

I hesitate to contact you directly about all this but hear a bit from Lauren from time to time.

And I just want you to know I Love you down deep in my heart and not being a praying man your in my prayers!!


Mary B said...

Thanks Mikey. Your words mean a lot. Thanks so much for checking in. I hope all is well with you. M